The Preschool on Wheels program was recently approved as the state of Colorado’s first licensed mobile preschool provider. The Colorado Division of Early Care and Learning completed an in-depth review of the provider and found it to meet the state’s standards as a safe environment conducive to learning.
The innovative new program is the culmination of a partnership between the Aspen Community Foundation and the Garfield School District Re-2, and was established in response to the lack of access to quality preschools for low-income families in western Garfield County. As a result of the lack of programs, less than half of the children in the area are prepared to enter kindergarten.
City Council member Keith Lambert considers the program a “feather in the cap of the region,” and he stresses the importance of properly preparing all children for kindergarten to ensure everyone begins with an equal footing.
When the program was launched in 2012, “Gus the Bus” was the star of the show, but by 2013, a new mobile classroom was added, meaning “Gus” had to share the spotlight with “The Sunshine Bus.” Both are school buses that have been retrofitted and converted into state-of-the-art classrooms on wheels. Each bus visits six neighborhoods for two hours a day, two times a week.
The operating schedule for the two mobile classrooms is as follows:
- “Gus” visits six different neighborhoods in Rifle twice a week for two hours (September through June)
- “Sunshine” visits six different neighborhoods in Silt and Newcastle twice a week for two hours (September through June)
Up to 120 students at a time are served by the four credentialed teachers that manage the program. In the three years since the program began, 235 children have reaped the benefits of this forward-thinking and innovative approach to making early childhood education available to all.